Asbestos in old Sheffield schools is ‘no risk to students’

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THREE-QUARTERS of Sheffield’s schools contain asbestos despite major rebuilding work – but council officials say there is no risk to pupils.

Most of the city’s 17 secondary schools have now been rebuilt and the toxic material removed.

But 116 of 154 schools in Sheffield in total – some 75 per cent – still contain the cancer-causing substance, most of which are primary schools.

Action plans have been drawn up for each school which has asbestos to ensure that whenever any work is carried out – even down to fixing up new shelves – checks are made to ensure the substance will not be disturbed.

The material, used in previous years for insulation and for its fire-resistant properties, is safe when untouched, but dangerous if damaged.

Teaching unions have backed the council’s position.

Toby Mallinson, joint divisional secretary of the National Union of Teachers in Sheffield, said: “It’s accepted in health and safety circles that given the volume of asbestos in old buildings, that’s the way it should be managed.

“We would have concerns if individual schools were not following the procedures – asbestos is not unsafe as long as it is stable and doing the job it was installed for.”

Sheffield Council’s stance complies with the Government’s new Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Coun Jackie Drayton, council’s cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “It’s worrying for parents and carers where issues of children’s health are concerned, so I want to stress that the safety of our school children is important to us and we would never do anything to put them at risk.

“This is why we already have robust procedures in place to deal with asbestos when it’s found in any of our buildings.”

The council said it has ‘regularly and proactively audited’ all its schools over time for the presence of asbestos.